A fire had been built outside the straw hovel in which Red Chicken lay, and stones were heating in it, so that if milder medicine did not avail the patient might be laid on a pile of blazing stones covered with protecting leaves, and swathed in cloths until perspiration conquered fever. The patient would then be rushed to the sea or river and plunged into cold water.
But this procedure was not necessary. Red Chicken got well rapidly, and in a few days was walking about as usual, though with a thoughtful look in his eye that promised a soul-struggle with Pere Olivier, whose new gods had not protected the fisherman against the gods of the sea.
A journey over the roof of the world to Oomoa; an encounter with a wild woman of the hills.
Pere Olivier tried to dissuade me from walking back to Oomoa, and offered me his horse, but I determined to go afoot and let Orivie, a native youth, be my mounted guide. Orivie is named for Pere Olivier; there being no “l” in the Marquesan language, the good priest’s name is pronounced as if spelled in English Oreeveeay.
The horse, the usual small, tough mountain-pony, was caught, and upon him we strapped the saddle with cow-skin stirrups, hairy and big, and a rope bridle. Orivie, handsomely dressed in wrinkled denim trousers, a yellow pareu and an aged straw hat, mounted the beast, and bidding farewell to the friends I had made, we began to climb the trail through the village.
At each of the dozen houses we passed I had to stop and say Kaoha to the occupants. In these islands there is none of that coldness toward the casual passer-by which is common in America, where one may walk through the tiniest village and receive no salutation unless the village constable sees a fee in arresting the wayfarer for not having money or a job. All the elders were tattooed, and as every island and even every valley differed in its style of skin decoration, these people had new patterns and pictures of interest to me. I made it a point to linger a little before each house, praising the appearance of these tattooed old people, both because it pleased them and because it is a pity that this national art expression should die out at the whim of whites who substitute nothing for it. By this deprivation, as by a dozen others, the Marquesans have been robbed of racial pride and clan distinction, and their social life destroyed.
Despite this delay, Orivie and I were soon past the houses. As population has decreased in all the valleys the people have moved down from the upper heights to districts nearer the sea, for neighborliness and convenience. Only a few in some places have remained in the further glens, and these are the non-conformists, who retain yet their native ways of thought and living and their ancient customs. This I knew, but I pursued my way behind the climbing little horse, enjoying the many sights and perfumes of the jungle, in happy ignorance of an experience soon to befall me with one of these residents of the heights. It fell upon me suddenly, the most embarrassing of several experiences that have divided me between fear and laughter.